This June marks one year since I’ve had a 3D printer. Sort of my makerversary. I had made some things here and there before this too, but it was all very ad-hoc. I either just winged it or had a very basic dimensional sketch. The purchase of a 3D printer and the skills I’ve gained with it are when I really mark the beginning of this hobby for myself. When I started this, I didn’t have any experience at all with 3D printing or computer controlled machinery. The only thing I really knew how to do was 3D modeling. In this post I will highlight some of the other projects/things I have printed in the past year.
A good way to start this post out is with the assembly of my 3D Printer. It is a Prusa i3 model from makerfarm.com and I bought the kit that came with everything I needed to get started.
It took me roughly 3 days after work and the following weekend to have it completely assembled and running.
I used an old computer power supply to power everything. My original cable management method involved roughly a billion zip ties. There was probably a zip tie every six or so inches along the cable bundles. It worked, but still looked a little messy. All the unused wires from the power supply were still present too.
After calibrations, I got straight off to printing. Pictured above is everything I printed in the first week. In the back are some fan shrouds for the stepper motors. These press on to the back side stepper motors and have holes for 40mm computer fans. Also pictured is a Minecraft creeper with a movable head, a flip open knife (not sharp at all) and in the center is a weighted companion cube from portal (These make for great calibration prints). The white cubes in the front are just plain 20mm cubes, but they are printed in ABS. I have not tried to use ABS since actually, and I still have the 95% full spool in my parts box.
Another one of the first things I printed was the above active cooling fan mount. This was the first thing of my own design, and was designed to replace the wooden hot end mount and integrate an adjustable cooling fan. The vent tube aims the air from the fan onto the recently extruded plastic to harden it quicker. I had to remove this one from use because the ambient heat of the hot end was causing it to melt and droop. The drooping caused the tube to drag, then the belts skipped and then the whole print was ruined.
And then I printed a whole bunch more things. I printed some Companion dodecahedrons, a fun twist on the cube.
I also printed some minions from despciable me. For this one, it was my first experience with printing supports. The supports allowed me to print the minion without worrying about the overhangs. The supports came off fairly easily too, and the final product looked good.
The next one was something I printed to see what it would actually look like. My roommate and I had discussed what it would look like if three cylinders along the X, Y and Z intersected and what the resulting intersection would look like. It’s something of a venn diagram of cylinders. It was printed in two halves then super glued together. The picture is a little hard to see the shape, since it was printed in black.
Around the same time that I got my 3D Printer, I also purchased a Pebble smart watch. The first thing I thought of when I got it was that I wanted a different watch band. The standard one is just a rubber strap, and is nothing special. So I designed a watch strap that I could print. The printed links were connected to each other via square brads from an air nailer. One of the links had a hidden portion that pulled out to act as a clasp. It did not have a very small radius of bending, but it was still wearable. I wore it for about a month before I decided that the clasp was much too clumsy and ordered a stainless steel link watch band from amazon instead. I did try briefly to use magnetic clasps, but I couldn’t get it to have a strong enough hold to be usable.
When the summer ended, and I had to return to school for the fall. Of course my printer came with me. I setup my printer in my bedroom in a shelving unit. My laptop fit right next to it, and the filament spool was suspended off the side of it on a section of PVC pipe held in place by a pair of vice grips. My main desktop was in the opposite corner of the room. I could model my parts, send the .STL’s over the network and print them from my laptop. It was a little noisy being right behind me, but I was able to combat this by just wearing my headphones at my desktop.
One weekend I made it my project to clean up all the cable mess. I cut off all the unused wires coming out of the power supply and used the sleeving that I had removed from the unused cables to sleeve all my printer cables. Now all the wiring was MUCH cleaner. I’ve since added some things to the wiring, but not re-done the sleeving, so it has gotten a little messy again. You can also see in the background some of the Rostock parts already printed for my rostock mini build.
After that I had to go back home for winter break, and get ready for my Spring Co-op. While I was home, I implemented auto bed leveling on my printer. This was one of the best decisions I ever made for my printer. Actually, it may be the best. It uses a micro servo to swing a microswitch probe into position, after that it probes 4 points of the bed to determine the zero point. Knowing the Z offset between the probe and the nozzle and then using the four points from probing, the controller can determine a plane. Then it prints on that plane (so it moves all three axes at once to ensure that the nozzle is always perpendicular to the print bed). Before this, I was messing with my Z end stop constantly. After this, my print quality and repeat ability increased drastically. Below is a video of what the sequence looks like. I highly recommend this upgrade to any 3D printer user.
The first print with my auto leveling enabled was a mickey mouse statue. I used white PLA, .2mm layer heights and support material. It took about 5-6 hours for it to print, but it completed without error. It may be the best print I have gotten so far. I ended up giving it to a friend of mine who loves all things disney.
After that, it was time to move into an apartment nearer to my Co-op. Once again, I brought my printer with me. It did not stay there long though. I found that I couldn’t do much with it as one print would take a whole night after work. It also reverberated on the dresser it was on, making it very loud, which disturbed my roommates.
A couple months later I moved it back to my home, and into our basement workshop. Around this time I also got my Shapeoko CNC mill. Once I cleared out some bench space, I claimed the bench as the new location for my machines. The bench fits my mill and 3D printer well, but it is going to get cramped as I add in my rostock mini 3D printer.
That brings it all up to speed! Almost all of the projects I work on from here onward should be documented on this blog. Tomorrow I will be working out the kinks on my Rostock Mini and possibly starting some preliminary work on a persistence of vision project that I am collaborating on with my brother.